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Comic Book / The Sandman Universe

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The Sandman Universe is a line of DC Comics published under DC Black Label. Launched to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Sandman (1989), the books, like Gerard Way and Young Animal, were "curated" by Neil Gaiman, who chose specific writer for each book. They began with a Sandman Universe one-shot, which then led to four books:

  • The Dreaming by Simon Spurrier and Bilquis Evely. Dream’s absence from the Dreaming has created unintended consequences for its inhabitants. Ran for 20 issues.
  • House of Whispers by Nola Hopkinson, Dan Watters, and Diminike Stanton. Welcome to the House of Dahomey, the houseboat of Erzulie Fréda, where the souls of Voodoo followers go when they sleep. But something has upset the balance and Erzulie's realm has been tossed into the Dreaming. Ran for 22 issues.
  • Lucifer by Dan Watters, Max Fiumara, and Sebastian Fiumara. The Prince of Darkness is missing and not coming back. Trapped in a small town with no memory of how he got there and no hope to escape, Lucifer is also the only hope to stop the world from ending. Ran for 24 issues.note 
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  • The Books of Magic by Kat Howard, David Barnett, and Tom Fowler. Timothy Hunter is destined to become the most powerful magician in the world, but currently he's a teenager trying to deal with teenage issues. Too bad nobody told the deadly supernatural forces about that. Ran for 23 issues.

After a year, another one-shot, The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer, was published and then three more books, dubbed "Year Two":

  • John Constantine, Hellblazer by Simon Spurrier and Aaron Campbell. John Constantine is back in London and ready to get his hands dirty. However, there's another Constantine out there pulling the strings, just waiting for the right moment. Ran for 12 issues.
  • The Dreaming: Waking Hours by G. Willow Wilson and Nick Robles. Lindy has the same dream every night of the Stratford House. This time, however, she runs into Ruin, a Nightmare, and nothing will be the same again. Ran for 12 issues.
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  • Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. A three-issue crossover with Locke & Key.
  • Nightmare Country by James Tynion IV, Lisandro Estherren, Yanick Paquette, Patricio Delpeche, and Nathan Fairbairn. An art student who can't dream starts seeing visions of a creepy fat man with mouths for eyes, drawing the attention of not only the Corinthian, but a pair of diabolical bounty hunters as well.

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    Tropes for The Dreaming 
  • Baku: When Judge Gallows takes over as regent of the Dreaming to instill order, he tries enforcing his frontier justice onto the realm by hanging the various blanks that had immigrated there. Since they are made of dream-matter and thus cannot die in the conventional sense, he hogties a Baku and feeds dissonants to it.
  • Eldritch Location: We see a glimpse of Destruction's realm, depicted as a single, ongoing explosion. Destruction's sigil — his sword — sits at the center of that explosion, imbedded in the ground.
  • History Repeats: Like with Morpheus before him, Daniel is captured and cut off from The Dreaming by an occult organization of humans, causing all sorts of metaphysical havoc for The Dreaming and the Waking World. This time however, it's not Dream of the Endless that his human captors want, but sovereignty and control over The Dreaming itself.
  • Magitek: Wan was an A.I. program created by Hyperion Keter and the Asiyaha Tech Group that utilized advanced technology and occult methods to replace Daniel as Dream King after they manage to cut him off from the Dreaming, intending on using The Dreaming to artificially evolve humanity into a Straw Vulcan race.
  • Moth Menace: Wan's physical aspect takes the form of a moth-like boy with a body of light. Though the form he takes when he emphasizes the "menace" part is a tad more abstract.
  • Science Destroys Magic: A tech millionaire attempts to destroy the supernatural by replacing Dream with an AI. It nearly succeeds.
  • Sleep Paralysis Creature: Dora turns out to be an amnesiac Night Hag who used to sit on sleepers' chests and feed off their fear but she had an existential crisis after her latest victim and the arc's villain didn't believe in her.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Hyperion Keter had Wan created because he believed that all superstition and fantasies that humanity ran on made it irrational and destructive, and that The Dreaming could be used as a learning tool to artificially evolve humanity. Unfortunately, since this is Not the Intended Use of dreams, all it did was rob humanity of its collective will to live and erase many belief-based entities from existence. Hyperion eventually realized the error of his ways, and even Daniel couldn't fault him for his good intentions.
    Lucien: Fix the world! Burn out the irrationality! Use dreams to educate and enable! It would be ingenious — quite, quite brilliant — if it didn't miss the point by a country mile. People aren't machines. People can't live without wonder and stories. They give up. It's happening out there right now. They drain of feeling. They drain of life! And so — what happens? What fucking happens, Wan?!

    Tropes for House of Whispers 
  • Berserk Button: Aesop is often annoyed whenever people quote his works without understanding the meaning behind them, especially when they do it against him.
  • Blessed with Suck: After his death, Aesop was granted the title of herald to the House of Watchers by Despair of the Endless. Unfortunately, this meant observing and enduring all human suffering for centuries.
  • The Big Easy: Most events that occur in the Waking World are set in New Orleans, a lot of the more fantastical elements being related to Vodou theology and Caribbean folklore.
  • Brutish Bulls: After being infected by a fragment of The Corinthian's shattered essence, Poquita's stray cat is transformed into a Rolling calf, a monstrous bull wreathed in fire and chains from Jamacian folklore.
    One stray cat + once mirror shard of The Corinthian = a very special nightmare beast.
  • The Chosen One: Because she crossed the Despair Event Horizon upon discovering her family's fate, Poquita is the ideal candidate to become the new caretaker of the House of Watchers. This "worthiness" is indicated physically by a mark on her arm shaped like Despair's hooked ring.
  • Cool House: The House of Whispers and the House of Watchers were both constructed by Despair of the Endless, the former forged from dejection and the later meant to alleviate Despair's burden of looking upon human suffering. The House of Whispers would be given to the loa Erzulie to be used as her pantheon's houseboat, while the House of Whispers would be left to Aesop, later to be taken to a far-off section of The Dreaming as a personal possession of Anansi the Spider.
  • Eye Scream: When the Vodou pantheon finds The Corinthian, he is in the middle of tormenting a vegetarian dreamer with a nightmare of society partaking in the eating of animal eye-balls (which look startlingly like human eyes) that devolves into cannibalism before being force-fed them herself.
    The Corinthian: And just like that, for all your disgust and outrage... you succumb to the evil of convenience.
  • Hall of Mirrors: The heart of the House of Watchers is one giant circular room, the walls lined with mirrors with a fountain of tears in the center. Those chosen to own the House of Watchers see different forms of pain and suffering going on in the universe. Should anyone else try gazing upon them have their essence shattered and dispersed, as was the case with The Corinthian.
  • Mystical Plague: One of the consequences of The Dreaming's erosion is a hypothetical disease thought of by Shakpana that only existed in dreams before escaping into the real world. It's a highly contagious disease that is transmitted by touch that causes a person'a souls to become detached from their bodies and is left to wander The Dreaming. In the waking world, their bodies suffer from Cotard's syndrome.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Uncle Monday takes the form of a top-hat wearing Lizard Folk that can shapeshift into a regular crocodile.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: After a mix of despair over her family's destruction and an infection from when the Rolling calf bit her, Poquita transforms into a Dark Watcher.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Erzulie can take on the form of a mermaid at her convenience.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: Only those touched by Despair are allowed to claim heraldship of the House of Watchers. When The Corinthian tries claiming it as his own, it shatters and disperses his essence in the process, causing all sorts of mayhem in the Waking World.
  • Plot Parallel: House of Whispers is happening in parallel with the events of The Dreaming, the instigating event being when the titular House is unceremoniously dropping into the Dreaming, cutting off the Vodou pantheon from their worshippers.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: After learning that The Corinthian wanted the House of Watchers due to feelings of inadequacies in his duties as a nightmare, Erzulie points to the chaos and terror he inadvertently caused in the Waking World and it immediately lifted his spirits.

    Tropes for Lucifer 
  • Adaptational Villainy: Lucifer to a degree compared to his previous incarnations. While in the previous Lucifer runs Lucifer was very amoral and put his own interests above everyone and everything else, he was more or less indifferent to others unless they were of benefit to his ends or crossed him to earn his ire. In this series, Lucifer is a much darker, sinister figure and seems to take some sadistic enjoyment in the suffering of others and those that earn his anger. While previously Lucifer was (for the most part) dispassionate and stoic in his demeanor, this time he casts an almost miasmal aura of dread and more closely portrays the common fictional image of the devil.
  • Anti-Villain: Caliban, of the well-intentioned variety. He displays compassion towards others and gives his father a well-deserved What the Hell, Hero? over his apathy, pointing out that he could easily stop people from suffering.
  • Asshole Victim: At the start of the series, Lucifer has become a non-fatal example of this to someone who turns out to be Stingy Jack, whom Lucifer is strongly implied to have dealt with in the past.. Lampshaded by Matthew:
    Matthew: Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Exaggerated. Lucifer is now blind, elderly, and homeless in a town that's impossible to leave.
  • History Repeats: Defied by Lucifer, who refuses to abandon his son, even though he admits he can't be a proper father to him.
  • Humanity Ensues: While Lucifer is trapped in a strange town that he searches desperately for the exit, he is no stronger or able than a normal, mortal human being. While he can grow back his eyes or put back body parts (like putting his fingers back on) he can still be injured as easily as a normal person and he other injuries like wounds and broken bones heal more slowly.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: During his time spent being a weak and vulnerable as a normal mortal being, Lucifer finds himself dependent on the help of others. While it's something he initially resents, he is genuinely touched by the compassion William Blake shows him by offering assistance, treating his broken leg, and sympathizing with his desperate desire to finish his task. Later when Blake is attacked and crucified, Lucifer gets him down and swears to make the one responsible pay for Blake's suffering.
  • It's All About Me: Both Lucifer and Sycorax have this going on.
  • Mythology Gag: An LAPD detective named John Decker (and his wife, Penelope) become entangled in Lucifer's fate.
  • Necessarily Evil: To avoid being sent back to Hell as Cassandra prophesied, Lucifer has himself annotated out of Destiny's book and making it as though he never existed, the only people who remember him being those who knew him personally. This proves to have catastrophic consequences on Earth and beyond in a number of ways: since Lucifer embodies the fears of punishment and damnation, much of mankind's Primal Fears and the ethics that come with it are gone with him. Since Lucifer did not lead the War in Heaven, the Fallen Angels are left without a leader and devolve into a power struggle, Hell becoming a wasteland where the demons cannibalize one another instead of the metaphysical nation it would become. Without evil there cannot be good and thus God disappears too, leaving the The Armies of Heaven (who rely on God's grace as sustenance) to starve, going mad as they cannibalize each other in a way indistinguishable from Hell.
  • Never My Fault: Sycorax completely dismisses her role in the tragic events that play out, claiming that because she never asked for help, she's not responsible. Naturally, the truth is much more complex.
  • Pet the Dog: Lucifer is convinced to let one of the ravens he has trapped for a spell go free... not that it does the raven any good. He also expresses regret over a newly-formed trio of witches losing a member to the plague.
  • The Wild Hunt: The Wild Hunt is the very first hunt of predator and prey personified again and again as a method of catharsis for the inherent bloodlust that comes with life, a bloodlust that would only build and develop into wars and the potential end of the universe should they let it continue. The hunt usually involves the Hunted God being hunted by Thirst, Fear and Honor (personified as a trio of godly berserkers) across the universe. For a time, Odin Allfather led the hunt until they tracked it down and killed the Hunted God in Hell. Since all who suffer in Hell must stay in Hell, Lucifer would not allow them to keep their kill, but Odin managed to convince him otherwise on the condition that he joined their next hunt. As Lucifer does, he perverted this sacred event by hunting the Hunted God before the hunt would even begin, killing the god at infancy again and again until the god's divine essence was whittled down nearly to nothing.

    Tropes for Books of Magic 

    Tropes for John Constantine, Hellblazer 
  • Contrasting Replacement Character: When John returns to London and takes back up his role, he finds that another magician, Tommy Willowtree, has taken his place. Tommy is exceedingly kind, clean, and hopeful, unlike John. He doesn't have John's skills, but he has different types of knowledge. He's also a vegan and into yoga. Eventually, John finds out that he was granted the role of "Magelord of London" by the "Guardians of the Merlintrove," which is just a bunch of junk that Clarice Sackville put together in order to trick Tommy into thinking his "destiny" was real because she needed someone else to keep things calm in London.
  • Take That!: It's clear that the Prime Minister doing disgusting, filthy things in one issue is Boris Johnson.

    Tropes for The Dreaming: Waking Hours 
  • 0% Approval Rating: While Naula's rule wasn't exactly ideal in the Faerie Realm, she refuses to admit that overthrowing Auberon and Titania was the wrong thing to do, and implies that they weren't that popular with the rest of their subjects to begin with and her coup wouldn't having gone as far as it did otherwise.
  • Angelic Abomination: Jophiel is an angel. His real form has four wings and a lion head.
  • Baby Language: Apparently angels can speak "baby", Jophiel being able to hold a coherent conversation with the infant Anne.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family The Burgess/Cripps family is large and convoluted. Roderick Burgess and Ethel Cripps were the great-grandparents of Heather After, but she comes from a side of the family that the Burgess's disowned. She doesn't care, though, because Heather is determined to be the last of her line.
  • Born Unlucky: From the moment Ruin came into existence things have gone to hell. Even his name isn't so much as a name as an insult, Daniel calling him "ruined" for not being what he intended him to be. It's implied that he exists not to cause suffering, but as an agent of change that goes beyond the Realm of Sleep, this being one of the reasons why Danile can't bring himself to unmake him in spite of all of the trouble he causes.
  • Call-Back: Many to the original Sandman series:
    • Brute and Glob show up in the Nightmare Box. Even though Morpheus destroyed them, Daniel has recreated them so that they will be loyal to him.
    • Heather After is the great-granddaughter of Roderick Burgess and Ethel Cripps. She even has the eye totem that Ethel stole for protection.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Auberon outright calls his subjects "spoiled, semi-immortal monsters" and thinks that he faired fairly well for his millenia-long tenure as their King.
  • Central Theme: The indomitable spirit of Free Will superseding one's nature.
    • Ruin is described as "the dream of catastrophic failure," and from the moment he came into existence all he ever does is make everyone worse off. The act of creating him instills Daniel with the crushing feelings of being Morpheus' Inadequate Inheritor, and he unintentionally has Jophiel exiled to Earth after failing to instill the fear of Eternal Damnation into the mind of a true believer. From then on he escapes to the Waking World and causes all sorts of mayhem across various realms. Even with all of the trouble he causes, Daniel recognizes that he is a unique being that is more than while he made him to be and allows him a chance to live a life with the man he loves.
    • Benedict was meant for a life in the church, Jophiel and Ruin assigned to help solidify that faith in the form of a nightmare of martyrdom and Eternal Damnation. Their attempts instead crush that fate (resulting in Jophiel being exiled and Ruin banished to the Box of Nightmares) and he leaves the clergy to pursue a normal life. He later admits that while the dream frightened him, all he could think of was Ruin's expression of sadness. He even vouches in Ruin's favor towards Dream, making a point that at the end of the day, it was his decision to take a different path and that Ruin shouldn't be punished for it.
    • Jophiel is a loyal servant to the Heavenly Host who winds up being banished to mortal plane after failing to solidify the faith of a true believer. This has made him cynical and homesick, trying to stay uninvolved with the messy politics of other realms like The Dreaming and Faerie as his probation dictates, only to wind up involved anyway due to his association with Ruin and Heather. It's implied by the end that his "exile" was all a part of Heaven's plan to ensure that the right people were where they needed to be, and that the whole thing was a Secret Test of Character to see if he was willing to do the right thing of his own free will, a test he passed with flying colors.
    • Heather After is the transgendered descendant of Roderick Burgess and Ethel Cripps and apprentice to John Constantine. Even though she was from the "illegitimate" branch of the family, she is proven to be a talented sorceress with enough skill to summon angels and faeries, travel between realms and is able to intimidate Dream by reciting the incantation used to imprison Morpheus. While she tries avoiding getting herself into the same misadventures as other magicians, she decides to be involved anyway out of a moral obligation to do so.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Unseelie Court come to Naula's aid when the Realm of Faerie starts devolving into chaos under her rule, resulting in a Crapsack World where the forest is dead and most of the fae there are either dead or imprisoned.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Not exactly "punch out," but Heather After threatens to imprison Dream with the same spell as her great-grandfather if he doesn't let Ruin and Ben have their happy ending.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Heather tries summoning a minor elemental to help find a backdoor into the Dreaming, only to summon an ornery Puck instead. He takes personal offense for being summoned, and after she sends him back, he later tracks her down and gives her a Wound That Will Not Heal, the magic of the curse attracting Unseelie fairies trying to eat her.
  • Evil Counterpart Race: The Unseelie Court are characterized as a race of more monstrous tribe of The Fair Folk who saw and opportunity to take over the Faerie Realm's capital after Naula overthrew Auberon and Titania. While all fairies are selfish and a little monstrous, the Unseelie are more visibly monstrous and the realm had fallen into a dying state under their charge.
  • Eye of Providence: Two of the versions of Shakespeare Lindy encounters are version of him based on Conspiracies, one having a light-based triangular Eye of Providence on his forehead, the other having a pyramid with a single eye instead of a head.
  • Fallen Angel: Jophiel was exiled from Heaven because he failed to recruit a dreamer to Heaven's side due to the intervention of Ruin. However, unlike a lot of other examples, Jophiel still retains his essential nature, i.e. helping innocents.
  • The Fair Folk: The second story arc is about Heather After's deal with the former King Oberon in order to depose Queen Nuala from the throne of Faerie. It doesn't go well.
  • Grail in the Garbage: While Robert Burgess's legitimate descendants argue over Ethel Cripp's stolen property, a young Heather (who is from an illegitimate branch of the family) only asks for what they presume was are worthless trinkets with sentimental value. Only a second too late do they realizes that the "worthless" property include the Amulet of Protection and one of her spellbooks.
  • Guile Hero: Like her mentor John Constantine, Heather After is a magic-user with a tendency to find herself in deep trouble, but is witty enough to get out of it just as easily.
  • Hobbes Was Right: When Naula tries an egalitarian approach to running the Faerie Kingdom, her hedonistic subjects devolved into backstabbing and hoarding resources, this being the opening the Unseelie Court took to taking over.
  • I Know Your True Name: Nuala dethroned Titania by saying her true name. When Heather After learns this, she doesn't worry and accepts the deal with Oberon. We learn why in issue #11, when the Unseelie attempt to control Heather by using the name on her birth certificate. Which is her deadname, so it doesn't work and results in the Unseelie who used it dying. Heather, in turn, says there's no such thing as a "true" name, only the one you make and names them all Lost.
  • Ignored Epiphany: When Heather thinks that Faerie should do away with the monarchy entirely, Auberon and Titania can't help but bursting out laughing at the alternative. Even Naula, who agrees with her on how flawed their system is, thinks it's ridiculous, preferring to argue over who gets the throne over addressing the real problem.
    Auberon: The sorceress would have us give the gnomes and harpies a vote!
    Titania: How very droll!
    Jophiel: You'll find no converts to anarchy here.
    Heather: I'm just trying to help!
    Jophiel: Have you seen these people? They're beyond help.
  • Love at First Sight: Ruin when he first saw the Boy.
  • Mordor: The Faerie Realm has devolved into a near-lifeless wasteland under Unseelie occupation.
  • Mundane Utility: Heather After makes a living shooting livestream videos teaching her subscribers how to perform real magic spells.
  • Necessarily Evil: Ruin suffers from an existential crisis from the moment he was created because he has a reluctance towards frightening others in spite that fear being his purpose. Dream elaborates that Nightmares are created as Stealth Mentors that renew the dreamer's will to live in the waking world.
  • Psychological Projection: Lindy realizes that everyone in the Stratford House is a projection of her own psyche. So none of them are the real Shakespeare.
  • Supernaturally Validated Trans Person: The Unseelie try to use Heather After's "true name" to control her, but collapse in pain instead, because that's not her true name, that's her deadname. Heather declares triumphantly that there are no such things as "true names."
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Being a loyal cherubim, Jophiel is reluctant to be involved in all of the interdimensional shenanigans Ruin and Heather drag her around, not wanting to make his exile from Heaven permanent. By the end his exile is rescinded after he helps restore order in Faerie and reunite Ruin with his first dreamer, implying the entire ordeal was a Secret Test of Character to see if he would do the "good" thing over the "lawful" thing.
  • Trapped in Villainy: Naula manages to dethrone Auboron and Titania using Titania's true name and takes the throne for herself after years of being taken for granted, hoping to take a more egalitarian approach and redistribute resources to less well-off subjects. Unfortunately, fairies are selfish and hedonistic by nature and the kingdom collapses. The Unseelie Court show up and agree to act as her enforcers to help curb the chaos, but they only acknowledge her as their queen if she agrees to their brand of cruelty out of fear of what they would do otherwise.

    Tropes for Nightmare Country 
  • Bondage Is Bad: Mr. Agony has a gimp mask fused to his face, obscuring his vision. It's eventually shown that he and Mr. Ecstasy were turned into their current state as more-than-human hitmen by a cult that engaged in extreme BDSM rituals.
  • Deal with the Devil: Mr. Teague makes a habit of seeking out people the supernatural are interested in so he can make bargains with them, and has a rogue angel trying to convince him he's a prophet.
  • Eye Scream: It's a Corinthian-centered comic, so naturally he indulges in his habit of removing and eating eyes.
  • Gay Conservative: Bill Teague, a gay billionaire heavily involved with the Republican party who thinks modern queers are "too soft."
  • Kid with the Leash: Once Dream gets involved he gives the Corinthian permission to track down the shade of his past self that Flynn sees, but appoints Flynn as his minder, forbidding him from killing unless she allows it.
  • Slasher Smile: Mr. Ecstasy has hooks driven into the flesh of his face, forcing him into a permanent wide-eyed smile.